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VOA Asia Weekly: Betting Big on US Chipmaking

VOA Asia Weekly: Betting Big on US Chipmaking
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First Solomon Islands election since secret China security pact. Philippine president says US won't have access to more bases. Apple's CEO will consider manufacturing in Indonesia. Celebrating Songkran on the Myanmar-Thailand border.

With plans for a third Taiwan-led chip facility, President Joe Biden hopes to bring nanotechnology production back to the U.S.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington.

That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:

Voters in the Solomon Islands cast their ballots on Wednesday in the first election since the country struck a secret security deal with China. As many as 420,000 voters had their say across 50 seats in parliament. Vote counting started Thursday. But the result will not be known for more than a week. The 50 elected lawmakers will choose the next prime minister.

“The Philippines has no plan to create any more bases or give access to any more bases.”

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Junior told a forum of Manila-based foreign correspondents this week that allowing the U.S. military access to Philippine bases was provoked by Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

Indonesian authorities closed an airport and residents left homes near an erupting volcano Thursday due to the dangers of spreading ash, falling rocks, hot volcanic clouds and the possibility of a tsunami. Mount Ruang on the northern side of Sulawesi Island had at least five large eruptions Wednesday. Indonesia's volcanology center is warning that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company will consider manufacturing in Indonesia after meeting with outgoing Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday. The tech giant has begun moving some production away from China since the COVID 19 pandemic. India and Vietnam have greatly benefitted. Bloomberg reports that Apple now makes 14% of its phones in India – double what it did a year ago. In December, Apple moved key iPad engineering resources to Vietnam.

Myanmar’s government moved its jailed former leader Aung San Suu Kyi from prison to house arrest due to a heatwave, according to a military spokesperson. The military also granted amnesty to more than 3,000 prisoners to mark this week’s traditional New Year holiday in Myanmar. Prisoner releases are common on holidays.

US President Joe Biden has announced a $6.6 billion grant to Taiwan’s top chip manufacturer for semiconductor manufacturing in Arizona, which includes a third facility that will bring the tech giant’s investment in the state to $65 billion. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Washington.

A single semiconductor transistor is smaller than a grain of sand.

But billions of them, packed neatly together on a chip, can connect the world, control weapons of war, and, someday, even drive your car.

But U.S. production of this American-born technology has fallen off in recent decades.

“As a nation, we used to produce 40% of microchips for the whole world. Now we produce less than 10%.”

The Biden administration announced $6.6 billion in funding for the world’s top chipmaker to build a third facility in the state of Arizona.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company says it will put the U.S. on track to produce 20 percent of the world’s leading-edge semiconductors by the end of this decade.

The funding comes from the bipartisan 2022 CHIPS and Science Act, which President Joe Biden highlighted that year in a visit to TSMC’s first Arizona facility.

"American manufacturing is back, folks. American manufacturing is back."

Engineers say the legislation addresses a key weakness in American chip manufacturing.

“We’ve just gotten in the cycle of the last 15 to 20 years, where innovation has slowed down. It’s all about financial results, investor payouts, and stock buybacks, and we’ve lost that innovation muscle. And the CHIPS Act, pulling that together with the CHIPS Act is the perfect opportunity to restore that.”

But, they say, America urgently needs talent. The White House says this new investment could create 25,000 construction and manufacturing jobs. Are there enough workers to feed this need?

“Our engineering college is the largest in the country, with over 33,000 enrolled students, and still we’re hearing from companies across the semiconductor industry that they’re not able to get the talent they need in time."

TSMC in 2022 broke ground on a facility that makes some of the world's most advanced chips.

With each jump, chip production can get more and more complex and expensive.

Can the country that made the mighty chip keep up? Biden’s betting on it.

For Levi Stallings in Flagstaff, Arizona, Anita Powell, VOA News, Washington.

Visit for the most up-to-date stories.

I’m Chris Casquejo.

Finally, to a party where staying dry is a challenge.

Despite the intense armed conflict and fighting near the city of Mae Sot, bordering western Thailand and Myanmar, citizens of both countries participated in this year’s Songkran, a traditional Theravada Buddhist water festival that is believed to wash away bad luck.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.